Romancing Miss Brontë

When I set the challenge for myself to get through Jane Eyre in a Week, I didn't think it would take over my blog for the past seven days, but I also didn't realize what a blog-worthy book I was embarking on. Also, I can think of no better book with which to conclude Jane Eyre Week than Juliet Gael's Romancing Miss Brontë.  I read this book last month - yes, before reading Jane Eyre - and I was captivated by the story.

Though the title would suggest a fanciful romance, Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael is a mostly somber historical fiction about the life - and eventual love interest - of Charlotte Brontë. The book opens on the younger life of Charlotte, with sisters Emily and Anne and brother Branwell, and their father the Reverend Patrick Brontë.

Assuming the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, the three sisters encourage each other in literary pursuits and all succeed in publishing novels but keep their endeavors hidden from family and friends. As tragedy repeatedly strikes the family, the novel takes a tearful turn but is slightly brightened by the courtship between Charlotte and her father's curate Arthur Bell Nichols.

I really enjoyed this book. Though I previously knew very little about the lives of the Brontë sisters, Gael stayed close to fact. The everyday scenes and conversations that she wove for the now-famous authors were entirely believable and worked to transpose the reader into Charlotte's life. I certainly would have preferred a happier story, but the true joy of Brontë's life was in the legacy of literature that she left for future generations.
I suppose it's a slightly off-kilter order of operations to read a novel about Charlotte Brontë before reading her most famous work, but I think knowing a little about the author's life and family gave me an added appreciation of the story created in Jane Eyre.  It was delightful to realize the parallels between Charlotte and her fictional heroine, and I think the correlations are intriguing regardless of whether Gael's work is encountered before or after Brontë's.  I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Jane Eyre as well as those looking to learn more about the Brontë family or anyone who enjoys stories set in the 1800's. 

2 Response to "Romancing Miss Brontë"

  1. Sam says:
    March 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I had steered clear of this one before because it looks a bit twee but your review has reassured me, especially the part about it staying close to historical fact.

  2. Enbrethiliel says:
    March 21, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    +JMJ+

    I probably should also read this (or any other good biographical treatment of Charlotte Bronte), if only to reconcile my personal suspicion that I wouldn't like her very much in real life (or her, me) and my conviction that almost two decades of rereading her masterwork at crucial points of my life has made my own life grow parallel to Jane's.

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